Sun, Mar 19, 1:54pm by Jake Equid
There is always plenty of hope and optimism among footy fans at this time of year, with each club starting with a clean slate, supporters go to bed dreaming of September success.
This year that optimism has only been heightened among the supporters of clubs who have spent so long out of the limelight, given that the unfashionable outsiders, the Western Bulldogs, went on their fairy-tale run just six months ago.
If we were Americans, that story would already be a movie, but we are not, and we can probably thank our lucky stars for that.
Optimism is one thing, but analysis and facts are another, and that’s where this column comes in. We are aiming to give you the best chance of backing a winner come season’s end, by running our eye over all 18 clubs and their chances of repeating the Bulldogs’ success last year.
Here’s the first of a six-part series, starting from the top down, with the top three from last season.
The champagne has dried up and the partying has subsided, and the boys from the west are out to do something that will be even harder than what last year’s miracle was, go back-to-back.
They are now the hunted, with all 17 clubs chasing them, with a greater understanding of their game plan, and their strengths and weaknesses.
They will be boosted by the return of their inspirational skipper Bob Murphy, who missed the Premiership year with a knee injury. Joining him this season is banned Bomber Stewart Crameri and Travis Cloke from Collingwood.
It will be fascinating to see how the three talls work in the forward 50, with Grand Final hero Tom Boyd in the mix too. It may take the trio a while to click, but if and when they do, then look out.
As we learnt last season, don’t write this Dogs outfit off. They will be well-positioned come season’s end to have another crack at a flag, and the good news is that this time, they won’t have to do it from outside the top 4 (Top 4 odds: $1.90).
Their draw is rated as the fourth toughest in the league, they play fellow top 4 clubs from last season GWS and Sydney twice, plus finalist West Coast. The reigning Premiers will only play at the MCG twice, but that didn’t worry them last season.
Ins: Bob Murphy (returning from knee injury), Stewart Crameri (suspension), Travis Cloke (Collingwood)
Outs: Will Minson, Josh Prudden
Predicted finish after Round 23: 3rd
Premiership Odds: $5.50
We Rate Them: $6.50
After losing two of the last three Grand Finals, the Swannies will be wanting to shake the tag of perennial bridesmaid this year, and there’s only one way to do that.
One man who left no stone unturned in the decider was Josh Kennedy, he was clearly their best on the day and has been appointed as new captain.
Luke Parker and Daniel Hannebery will join him in the middle of the ground to form one of, if not the best midfield group in the league. They will miss Tom Mitchell in this area of the ground but keep an eye out for the pair of Bondi blondes, Isaac Heeney and Callum Mills to raise their game.
You can take the $1.67 all day long with Sportsbet that they’ll finish inside the top four yet again.
They have a very good draw, rated the ninth toughest, they play GWS, the Bulldogs and Hawthorn twice but have their usual 11 games at the SCG. They have plenty of break between games with only five six day breaks, compared with Hawthorn, who have the most, with eight.
Ins: Oliver Florent, Will Hayward, Jack Maibaum, Darcy Cameron, Shaun Edwards (Essendon)
Outs: Tom Derickx, Ben McGlynn, Ted Richards, Xavier Richards, Tom Mitchell (Hawthorn), Toby Nankervis (Richmond)
Predicted finish after Round 23: Second
Premiership Odds: $7
We Rate Them: $5.50
This Giants side has the potential to become a dynasty, starting this season, the expansion club has all the tools they need to win this season’s Premiership.
The list just keeps getting stronger and stronger, they were just a goal away from playing in the Grand Final last year and now they’ve welcome another two top five picks in Tim Taranto (pick 2) and Will Setterfield (pick 5) to the club.
They’ve also added a bit of experience with the classy veteran of 182 games with Richmond, Brett Deledio.
One of our five best bets of the season was to take the $4 on the Giants to win the minor premiership. The sky is the limit for these Giants – no pun intended.
The Giants have copped a hard fixture (2nd hardest in rankings) as a result of their success last season, they play the premiers and the runners-up twice, as well as 2016 finalists West Coast and Geelong.
This shouldn’t worry them though, as they say, to be the best, you have to beat the best.
Ins: Tim Taranto, Will Setterfield, Harry Perryman, Isaac Cumming, Lachlan Tiziani, Matt de Boer (Fremantle), Tendai Mzungu (Fremantle), Brett Deledio (Richmond)
Outs: Jake Barrett, Paul Ahern (North Melbourne), Will Hoskin-Elliott (Collingwood), Caleb Marchbank (Carlton), Cameron McCarthy (Fremantle), Pat McKenna (Melbourne), Rhys Palmer (Carlton), Jarrod Pickett (Carlton), Jack Steele (St Kilda), James Stewart (Essendon)
Predicted finish after Round 23: 1st
Premiership Odds: $4.50
We Rate Them: $4.50
Stay tuned as we continue our club by club previews on australiangambling.com.au in the lead up to the AFL season.
Greater Western Sydney $4.50
Western Bulldogs $5.50
West Coast $9
St Kilda $26
Port Adelaide $34
Gold Coast $41
North Melbourne $67
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